UMN Experts: Antiquities Act
National monuments are created by Presidential declaration under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which provides that the President can set aside federal lands to protect "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of scientific interest."
On December 4, President Trump signed two proclamations in Utah to significantly reduce two national monuments in that state--the Bears Ears National Monument created by President Obama and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument created by President Clinton. President Trump's orders purported to reduce Bears Ears by approximately 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by approximately 50 percent.
University of Minnesota experts Alexandra Klass—Professor of Law and expert on environmental law—and Ingrid Schneider—Professor in the Department of Forest Resources and expert on parks, recreation and tourism management—are available to provide comment on the recent Presidential proclamations.
Alexandra Klass, J.D.
“For over a century, Republican and Democratic Presidents have set aside federal lands for national monument designation, which preserves such lands scientific or conservation purposes and can limit their uses for resource extraction and other industrial development. In the Antiquities Act, Congress delegated some of its authority under the Property Clause to govern federal lands to the President for purposes set forth in the statute. But while the Antiquities Act clearly conveys power to the President to create national monuments, it is silent regarding whether a President can reduce or abolish a National Monument created by a prior President. And no court has ever addressed the issue. Tribal and environmental groups challenged President Trump's actions in federal court in the District of Columbia the same day as the Presidential proclamations. The judicial decisions that arise from these lawsuits will have a profound impact not only on the future of the federal public lands but also on the scope of Presidential authority over those lands."
Alexandra Klass, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, teaches and writes in the areas of energy law, environmental law, natural resources law, tort law, and property law. Her recent scholarly work addresses regulatory challenges to integrating more renewable energy into the nation’s electric transmission grid, oil and gas transportation infrastructure, and eminent domain issues surrounding interstate electric transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines.
Ingrid Schneider, Ph.D.
“Legal scholars disagree about the President’s authority to revoke national monument status but most agree a reduction in national monuments is within Presidential purview. The Antiquities Act brevity and ambiguity leaves its intention and scope open for legal examination. Reductions or revisions in national monument boundaries have occurred previously, including reductions of up to 89 percent (President Taft and the Navajo National Monument). One of the most controversial questions in these discussions relates to monument size and what constitutes the ‘smallest area compatible” for their protection. While the Presidential Proclamations suggest studies support reducing Grand Staircase Escalante, no such evidence is provided for Bears Ears. Further, public sentiment supports continued protection of national parks for current and future generations (more than 90 percent). The immediate and significant legal challenges to these proclamations attest to this strong support among both tribes and the general public.”
Ingrid Schneider, Professor in the Department of Forest Resources, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, focuses on the human dimensions of natural resource management, particularly in recreation and nature-based tourism settings. In partnership with national forests, parks and other nature-based attractions, she studies the recreation experience, its outcomes, and the subsequent opportunities and challenges for management, planning and policy. Most recently, her work has focused on the impact of terrestrial invasive species on visitor preferences, diverse populations and their constraints, as well as visitor perceptions of National park conditions.
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